Consolidation work in the east wing

From 2006, the East Wing of the Domus Aurea, centred around the famous Octagonal Room, was the site of works undertaken by the Commissioner appointed to urgently secure the Domus Aurea by Directive no. 3541 of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of 18 August 2006. After a research and planning phase, the first consolidation interventions (1st batch) began in 2010. These works, directed by the Commissioner L. Marchetti, entailed consolidating vertical walls and jack arches, alongside structural and microclimatic monitoring, concentrated in the East Wing of the monument. With the Directive of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers no. 4017 of 25 April 2012 the state of emergency ceased and responsibility for the whole monument and its management, with the remaining funds, was returned to the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, which in the meantime had continued to work in the West Wing as well as acting to safeguard the monument.

The interventions contracted by the Commissioner immediately before his mandate was revoked, forming part of a 2nd batch, were not suspended but incremented and are currently directed by a new Works Management staff belonging to the Soprintendenza. It should be stressed that the conservation problems encountered are identical throughout the complex, as concerns both structural aspects and the securing of decorated surfaces.

The first phase of the works, begun by the Commissioner and continued by the Soprintendenza, covered the area on the southern edge of the East Wing where a series of corridors link the so-called Pentagonal Courtyard to the eastern edge of the pavilion. Specifically, we have intervened in Corridor 117 with structural consolidation work and repair of the lost brick facings, whose absence had seriously compromised the structural stability of vaults and walls. In 2011, we secured the dividing wall between Corridor 117 and the so-called Pentagonal Courtyard; this intervention concerned the safety arch and the passageway jack arch and entailed drilling work to insert stainless steel bars.

Safety arch in Room 17, lesion - SSBAR Archive

Safety arch in Room 17, lesion – SSBAR Archive


Safety arch in Room 117 during consolidation work - SSBAR Archive

Safety arch in Room 117 during consolidation work – SSBAR Archive

The same type of material was used to encircle one of the pillars at the southern edge, which had lost its structural stability and presented major lesions, threatening to compromise the stability of the whole worksite area.

Pillar with temporary supports in Room 117 - SSBAR Archive

Pillar with temporary supports in Room 117 – SSBAR Archive

In numerous other rooms, we removed the soil concretions found in various points and then proceeded to consolidate the cement wall structure, jack arches and safety arches by injecting suitable binders. We also repaired the brick wall facings where the gaps left by removals in antiquity no longer guaranteed the structural stability of the walls due to the weight of the overlying vault.

Room 113 before the intervention - SSBAR Archive

Room 113 before the intervention – SSBAR Archive


Room 113 during the intervention - SSBAR Archive

Room 113 during the intervention – SSBAR Archive


Overview of Room 94 - SSBAR Archive

Overview of Room 94 – SSBAR Archive


Room 94 before the intervention - SSBAR Archive

Room 94 before the intervention – SSBAR Archive


Room 94 after the intervention - SSBAR Archive

Room 94 after the intervention – SSBAR Archive

More complex and delicate works, still underway, were needed in the long corridor at the north-eastern edge (Cryptoporticus 142), still buried up to three quarters of its height. We therefore thought it necessary to intervene by digging out at least some of the infill, lowering its height to form a series of steps descending from the highest level towards the entrance of the cryptoporticus;

Stepped excavation in Cryptoporticus 142 - SSBAR Archive

Stepped excavation in Cryptoporticus 142 – SSBAR Archive

it was then possible to secure the passageway; the jack arch no longer had its supporting side walls, which were replaced. Work in this sector has not yet been completed.

In May 2012 we opened the worksite to secure the decorated surfaces of the Great Cryptoporticus (room 92), an intervention still underway, directed by a team of specialized conservators.

Conservator at work in Cryptoporticus 92 - SSBAR Archive

Conservator at work in Cryptoporticus 92 – SSBAR Archive

The work in progress involves plastering cracks, gaps and edges with mortar and pozzolana, and the injection of special hydraulic mortars where there are superficial detachments of the plasterwork. In cases where not only the paint layer but also the preparatory layers have detached from the walls we are injecting adhesive substances in accordance with a protocol already tested in the pilot worksite in Room 24.

When the state of emergency came to an end (1 May 2012) other worksites belonging to Batch 2 financed using the remaining funds were opened. These involved inspecting the vaults, securing the decorations and structural consolidation in the following rooms: in the East Wing a group of rooms facing onto the so-called Pentagonal Courtyard (Rooms 88, 89, 90 and 91); in the West Wing Rooms 39, 40, 41 and 42.

Example of wall stripped of brick facing - SSBAR Archive

Example of wall stripped of brick facing – SSBAR Archive


Example of wall stripped of brick facing - SSBAR Archive

Example of wall stripped of brick facing – SSBAR Archive


Overall plan showing the intervention areas of Batch II – SSBAR Archive

Overall plan showing the intervention areas of Batch II – SSBAR Archive

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Gli autori

Fedora Filippi

Fedora Filippi

Scientific director of the Domus Aurea from 2009. Archaeologist and coordinator at MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities) from 1980. She is also responsible for the safeguard of the western Campus Martius and Trastevere. Coordinator for the safeguard of archaeological heritage in Rome’s Historic Centre. Director of the SSBAR historical archive. An expert in particular on urban archaeology, she has edited numerous academic publications, especially in the field of Roman archaeology.
Maria Maddalena Scoccianti

Maria Maddalena Scoccianti

At MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities) since 1994, she is an Architect, Director and Coordinator. A specialist in the conservation of monuments, she holds a degree in the history of the city. She has been a member of the Domus Aurea staff since 2012.
Ida Sciortino

Ida Sciortino

Archaeologist at MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities) since 1980, member of the Domus Aurea staff since 1992 and coordinator of the blog. Scientific director of the Underground Basilica at Porta Maggiore, she is also responsible for safeguard in part of the territory of Rome’s 1st District (I Municipio), adjacent to the north-western area of the Roman Forum where she has been responsible for all archaeological research since 1982. She is currently in charge of conservation work in the Vicus Jugarius and the Basilica Julia with a view to their reopening to the public.
Maria Bartoli

Maria Bartoli

Conservator trained at ISCR in Rome, she has many years of work-experience on the conservation of painted surfaces, plasterwork, stucco and stone materials. Working at SSBAR, since 1994 she has been responsible for the Mosaics section within the Conservation Sector I MNR. In 2010, she became a member of the Domus Aurea’s technical staff.

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